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IDEM hotline
•Report environmental emergencies to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management 24 hours a day at 1-888-233-7745.

DeKalb dairy cleans tainted creek

Officials say a manure spill that contaminated a creek has been cleaned up, but they do not know how much manure from a dairy farm reached the water.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials said Irish Acres, a concentrated animal feeding operation permitted to have up to 2,300 dairy cattle northwest of Butler in DeKalb County, apparently spread manure on a frozen field.

Runoff reached a field tile – pipes used to drain excess water from farm fields – which carried the waste to Haverstock Ditch, a tributary to the St. Joseph River.

IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock said a neighbor discovered the contamination Jan. 16, a Saturday, but was unaware IDEM had an after-hours spill hotline available on weekends, so the agency wasn’t contacted until Jan. 19.

IDEM officials were at the site Jan. 20 and found ammonia readings in the creek of up to 5 parts per million.

“We want to see readings of 2 ppm or lower,” Hartsock said.

Officials followed the ditch upstream, and the ammonia readings kept getting higher, until they hit 8 ppm, the maximum the agency can field-test.

Hartsock said officials then traced the manure to the field tile and traced that back to a field with manure recently applied.

“Irish Acres farm took responsibility for it,” Hartsock said. “… (They) were very proactive in responding to the incident.”

The dairy dammed the creek, pumped out all of the contaminated water and also drained and flushed the field tile, Hartsock said.

Attempts to reach Irish Acres officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Though the farm is permitted to have up to 2,300 dairy cows, the facility at 1867 County Road near Butler is believed to have about 700.

Neighbor Doug Strock said Irish Acres has new owners who have been much more responsive to concerns.

“We had had some problems with the dairy in the past,” Strock said. “But the new owners are much more conscientious.”

Still, Strock said, the problems they have seen are a concern, and the idea of 2,300 cows on the site makes them nervous.

Hartsock said IDEM’s investigation found one dead fish in the creek, but it was unknown whether the death was related to the spill.

When ammonia levels in the creek dropped Monday to less than 2 ppm, the dairy was told it could remove the dam and stop cleanup operations, Hartsock said.

The dam was apparently removed Tuesday.

Hartsock said the agency will have someone from its compliance staff visit the farm and “go over whatever measures might be needed” to prevent future releases.